Review: Celestial Cafe

Somehow until yesterday I’d never seen the cafe inside the Celestial Seasonings building, which is open Monday-Friday for breakfast from 7 to 10, and for lunch from 11 to 2, but not on weekends at all.

It’s a very pleasant cafeteria with great prices and, from the online reviews I’ve looked at, great food. You can get a full breakfast for less than $6 plus beverage. And, since it’s a cafeteria, there’s no requirement to tip.

I’ve only been there for a breakfast buffet for a large group (my plate is pictured below), so can only say for sure that that breakfast was terrific. Next time I’m there on my own, I’ll order the Boulder Scramble for $6.00: two eggs scrambled with mushrooms, sausage, spinach, and cheese, with salsa and potatoes. No bread, which is a good thing, although you really want it you can get toast, a Biscuit or an English muffin for $1.25.

 

They have china plates, metal utensils, and compostable cups, so it’s environmentally responsible in that sense. Vegan and vegetarian items and gluten-free bread are available. And, yes, even though it’s Celestial, they do have coffee.

The menu is online here.

If you’re looking to have breakfast before heading into Boulder, the Celestial Cafe is an easy stop. If you’re really in a hurry, you can stop in for a grab-and-go breakfast and take it with you. Afterwards, you can continue south on Spine Rd., make a right on Jay, and get on the Diagonal.

Review: Breakfast at Aperitivo

[Update: See the end of this post.]

I wrote a review of Aperitivo back in November 2017, shortly after they opened, but I only recently had breakfast there, so here are some comments about their breakfasts.

The short version: Excellent service, very tasty, small portions.

I had a create-it-yourself omelette (peppers, onions, cheese, bacon, spinach) for $9 with a very small bowl of fruit. No bread and no potatoes or grits. It was fine as omelettes go, but wasn’t the large breakfast I prefer.

My dining companion had The Aperitivo Breakfast, also $9, with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and the same small fruit bowl. You can also have ham instead of bacon, but there’s no sausage.

Were I to go again, I might get the omelette again, but I’d also like another side, maybe potatoes or grits, but neither is available. Nor is sausage, which I prefer to bacon or ham. (Turkey sausage would be my first choice.) They have a nice selection of pastry items, which I could have added for another $2.50-to-$3 or so, but that wouldn’t have satisfied me as much as potatoes or grits, and it would have raised the total to about $15, including $3 for coffee, which is way too much for breakfast.

If you like eggs Benedict, there are three choices, and also a few other items (link to menu):

(This is the online menu, not exactly the same as the eat-in menu.)

Try breakfast at Aperitivo for yourself. You might like it, and the size might be exactly what you need to start your day. But I prefer the fuller plates at The Morning Table, or Doug’s Day Diner (Superior or Boulder), or Alice’s in Longmont.

Conclusion: Excellent performance, but not my type of menu.


After posting this, I got this response from Aperitivo on Nextdoor.com:

Thank you Marc…. Aperitivo is an Italian word meaning to “stimulate” your appetite… usually a starter to the evening…. we created Aperitivo Gunbarrel in the Italian tradition with smaller healthy entrees and small plates… while we NEVER have grits.. we do make on demand hash browns to accompany our breakfast /brunch menu items… our prices and diversity in meals allows our guests to enjoy a quality meal without all of the heavy starches, batter, sweetness that has become American breakfasts… see you soon. Thanks Marc for your continued support… Aperitivo is a locally owned business and we also LIVE in Gunbarrel…

Looking at the 2019 Gunbarrel Green HOA Budget

The 2019 Budget was posted to the website just before the Board meeting (minutes) last week (27-March-2019), and also handed out at the Board meeting.

At first, I thought the Board had previously reviewed the budget, since they spent less than a minute discussing it, but from a question Board Member David Smith asked about dipping into the reserve, I’m now not so sure.

If they did discuss it previously, it would have had to be at a non-announced and non-minuted meeting, since it wasn’t discussed at the previous Board meeting, in Sept. 2018. So I’m assuming it was not discussed prior to the March meeting and, as I said, it was hardly discussed then.

In fact, here’s the entire report of the Budget discussion from the minutes:

Treasurer’s Report – Gina Hyatt – Gina presented the 2019 Budget and the 1.1.19 to 3.25.19 Treasurer’s report.

So, let’s take a closer look at the Budget, even if the Board didn’t. Since 2014 at least, HOA expenses and income have been pretty much in balance, always running a surplus. Here are the actual numbers, rounded to dollars, with the 2019 budgeted numbers at the bottom:

Year Year-End Assets Asset Increase
2014 50,874 (don’t have number)
2015 52,738 1,864
2016 55,094 2,356
2017 55,768 674
2018 55,970 202
2019 38,491 (17,479)

So, 2019 is planned to be a significant departure from previous years, something you’d think the Board would want to think about carefully. I was at the meeting, and, if they thought about it, they certainly did not discuss their thoughts with one another, other than David’s comment.

From the budget, it’s easy to see why the Board is planning to go $17K in the hole for 2019. They’re planning on $3,950 for meetings, and $17,000 for legal services related to re-doing the governing documents. To make the budget balance, the Board lists both the beginning checkbook balance of $2,447 and $15,032 transferred from savings (the reserve) as income. Misleadingly, that makes it look like the budget is in balance, but the actual planned income is $29,700, not the $47,179 shown on the budget document that was posted to the website.

As I said at the Board meeting and on this blog, I think the $17K for legal expenses is a waste, because the substantial changes to be made have never been explained to the HOA membership, and our desire for those particular changes has therefore not been assessed. If all that expensive legal work is done only to have the proposed documents rejected, then the money is wasted. Better to first get HOA membership consensus on the the problems to be solved and their solution and only then start the expensive drafting process. But I have gotten absolutely nowhere with this suggestion. So, I’m almost sure that the $17K will be for nothing.

As for the $3,950 for meetings, there’s no charge to use Boulder Country Club or Boulder Rural Fire Rescue, and committees usually just meet at someone’s house, so I don’t know why the Board continues to plan spend this money.

Anyway, the 2019 Budget runs a huge deficit, something very rare and unusual, and nobody on the Board seemed the least bit concerned. In fact, I think I’m the only one in the world who’s concerned. If you’re reading this, maybe you will be, too.

One more thought: The savings account has had $50K+ in it for years (not for long, alas), but the interest reported as income for 2018 was about 0.3%. I have an FDIC-insured savings account, allowing on-demand withdrawals and deposits, that pays 2.25%. If the Board got only 2% on its money, that would be about $1000. Again, money thrown away. (I think the Board considers only local banks. The best deals are with online banks.)

Report on the 27-March-2019 HOA Board Meeting

First, a couple of notes:

  • Obviously, these aren’t the official minutes. Those are supposed to be provided by the Board a week or so after the meeting.
  • Confusingly, I maintain the HOA website, so I’m the one who posts the minutes when they’re available. I have no role in writing them, or even editing them; I just post whatever PDF the Board provides. In fact, I don’t author or even contribute to any of the documents on the web site, which is controlled entirely by the Board. If I did those things, I’d have a huge conflict-of -interest.

The Board sent out an email inviting HOA members to attend the Board meeting, and those who indicated they would received a Protocol for guests, with 12 rules, and the Agenda . You only get the Agenda after you’ve decided to attend, which, as someone pointed out at the meeting, makes no sense, since how would one know whether the topics would be of interest? The Board took note of that and might decide in the future to send the Agenda out along with the invitation.

Only two guests attended the last Board meeting, and only four this time, so it seems that very few HOA members want to attend. This is really unfortunate, because it sends a message to the Board that no one is watching what they do. Even at the HOA Annual Meeting last October, there were only 18 households in attendance, other than the Board and Committee chairs.

(This is why I’m opposed to voting on dues or anything else important at the Annual Meeting. There are 305 households, and 18 is not representative. In fact, the Bylaws and Articles require that dues be voted on by the membership as a whole, not at the Annual meeting, but this requirement is regularly ignored by the Board. I discussed this matter in an earlier post.)

The Protocol rules are, in my view, excessively controlling. The Board President, Cynthia Arey, spent the first few minutes going through them, and then immediately abandoned them. For example, two of the rules are:

3. The Chair will recognize you before you begin speaking. Please stand, be recognized by the Chair, introduce yourself and begin speaking.
4. Each recognized person will have up to two minutes to speak. After that, the Chair will recognize the next person.

Besides the Board, there were only four guests, plus Mike Dorsey, Chair of the Articles & Bylaws Committee. None of the guests stood or introduced themselves, so I have no idea whom they were. And one or two times one of them rambled on for way over two minutes. This was OK with me, but why go to such trouble to write, distribute, and orally review the rules if they’re to be ignored? Perhaps the idea is to invoke the rules only if a speaker needs to be controlled. I think the rules were primarily designed to control me, since I’m by far the most outspoken member at HOA meetings. However, they weren’t invoked in my case either, although I never spoke for more than two minutes at a time. (It’s not that I speak for too long, it’s that I say things that the Board doesn’t want to hear.)

My one comment during the comment period was that, since the comments were at the beginning of the meeting, but the topic I wanted to comment on was towards the end, it was hard to comment on something not yet presented. But, I said I thought I knew what the topic would be, and I was opposed to spending $17,000 in 2019 to revise the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation and that I considered it to be a waste of money. Little did I know at the time how right I was; more later in this Report.

The Agenda has to be seen to be believed. Here’s an excerpt:

7:00-7:15      Discuss Meeting Protocol and Open Floor for Residents
7:15                  Call Meeting to Order & Approve the Agenda
7:16                 Acknowledgment of a Quorum
7:17-7:25      Revise or Approve Minutes 9/18/2018 Board Meeting

I was disappointed when the Acknowledgment of a Quorum didn’t take place at 7:16. In fact, it never happened at all. (It was obvious that all 5 Board members were present.)

Anyway, despite the Protocol and the over-the-top precision of the Agenda, the meeting actually flowed very comfortably. Board members and guests spoke freely, and to one another (despite the Protocol), and the meeting ended at 8:31, which is pretty darn good for a scheduled end time of 8:30. Cynthia took the trouble to walk around the room to show us various exhibits (e.g., the landscaping plan), which I appreciated.

The Treasurer, Gina Hyatt, presented the Treasurer’s report and the 2019 Budget, but there was very little discussion, except that Board Member David Smith remarked that the $17,000 item would require dipping into the reserves. He didn’t express this as an objection to spending the money, but just as an observation.

There’s $2000 in the Budget for Special Meetings. I have no idea what they are, as there is a separate item of $1500 for Board/Committee Meetings and $450 for the Annual Meeting. As I’ve pointed out to the Board many times, they can meet at Boulder Country Club for free (they did once, I think), and I think the smaller meetings could just be at someone’s home. There was no opportunity to go over the Budget at this meeting. Perhaps the Board did it at some other meeting, one that they didn’t announce or provide minutes for? There’s no way to know.

Various minor items were discussed by the Board:

  • The landscaping around the arch is being improved. Cynthia got multiple bids, and it seems that the cost is going to be a very reasonable $1800, although I’m not sure if that’s for the whole job or just the new path. The 2019 Budget has $5800 for Groundskeeping, but I don’t know if that includes the landscaping. Maybe it does, since there’s no “landscaping” line item. As I said, the Budget wasn’t explained.
  • Gina sent the directory off to the printer.
  • Cynthia wants to have “20 is Plenty” painted on the street in about 6 or so places. She got this idea from a Boulder City street painting program, which allows neighborhoods to put murals on the street. We’re in the County, not the City, and “20 is Plenty” isn’t a mural, but she’s going to pursue this. (I think it looks tacky and am opposed, but I didn’t express that opinion.)
  • They’re changing the website URL from gunbarrelgreen.com to GunbarrelGreenHOA.com. When I was asked about this a few months ago, I said that (1) changing the URL for what would be the third time makes it more difficult to remember what it is, and (2) for those who just use Google to get to a web site, if you Google “Gunbarrel Green” our website is the very first hit. Changing the URL will cause us to lose our Google ranking. Anyway, my comments were ignored, and possibly not even understood.
  • The Board wants to keep the Christmas lights on the arch lit up all year round, and Gina says will cost only about $15 or so in Xcel charges. One of the guests said she didn’t like icicles all year round, and the Board briefly discussed switching to LEDs (the icicles are incandescent). But Gina doesn’t want to buy all new lights. I didn’t voice an opinion on this, but I’m concerned that the Board seems to completely ignore global warming, which should motivate everyone to stop wasting energy, and light pollution, which deprives us of the beauty of nighttime skies. Too bad we don’t have any Board members who are environmentally conscious.
  • There was some discussion about resident’s cleaning of the street apron, tree houses, street flooding, and motion detection lights for the arch area, but I didn’t follow that part of the meeting closely enough to report on what was said.

OK now for the big item:

For over a year the Board has been trying to revise the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. At the last Annual meeting, in October, Mike Dorsey, chair of the Articles & Bylaws Committee, said this, according to the draft minutes posted on the HOA website:

Mike reported that the project to revise our current Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws was delayed when we discovered we might have to comply with the Colorado Common Interest Owners Act. This investigation took some time, and the HOA also changed attorneys during this time. We have hired Melissa Garcia, with Altitude Community Law (formerly HindmanSanchez). This firm specializes in HOA law. Melissa gave a legal opinion that the Gunbarrel Green HOA does not have to comply with the CCIOA because there is no mandatory dues requirement in our Declaration (the ability to collect dues is defined in our Articles and Bylaws). Suggested revisions from the committee and Board will be formulated and mailed to the members. Then, a meeting will be held for community input and a final version will be mailed to all residents for approval. This is the same process we started last Spring. [emphasis added]

So, we were told that “a meeting will be held for community input.” Sometime between the Annual meeting and last Wednesday, the Board one or more times took an “action in the absence of a meeting,” to quote the Bylaws. One of those actions I’m guessing was to abandon the drafts produced by the Articles & Bylaws Committee, which have never been provided to the HOA membership, and turn the drafting over to the attorney.

There are no minutes from these non-meeting actions. At the past two Annual meetings, motions were approved requiring the Board to release minutes of their meetings, but there’s a loophole: No requirement to release information about an non-meeting action. I think emails were exchanged. If there was anything actually discussed, that is, anything other that a simple vote, that to me constitutes a meeting, albeit a virtual one, but I’m in no position to challenge the Board on this.

I really don’t know why the Board operates in secret, since it’s clear that the membership wants to know what they’re doing. I think going by the letter of the Annual meeting motion instead of its spirit is doing a disservice to the HOA membership.

But the real problem isn’t that, it’s that whatever proposal is eventually put up for a vote, it needs to get 60% of the membership, and that’s unlikely to happen unless the members feel that the process was fair, open, and inclusive. So far, it’s not going that way.

I’ve pointed out several times that the way to proceed to to first articulate what problems the Board is trying to solve with the re-write of the governing documents, then get the membership to buy into changes that have a consensus, and only then commence drafting. They’re doing it backwards.

I think what’s likely to happen is that the Board will spend $17,000 or probably much more on legal fees and either come up with nothing at all, or come up with something that the membership will reject. Then they have gotten exactly zero for all the time and money, and we have exactly the same documents as before.

I did point out to the Board at the meeting that if they need a $100 transfer fee, they could get that with a simple one sentence amendment. And, they don’t have to print and distribute the entire document, just the new verbiage. They thought this was a good idea. The problem is that I had suggested exactly the same thing twice before, including once privately to Cynthia over coffee, and each time the suggestion has been (1) received as if for the first time, and (2) promptly forgotten.

Trying to boil the ocean is challenging enough, but really inefficient if all you wanted was a cup of tea.

Wait, one more thing: Every discussion, mailing, and all the committee work to date has been about revising two documents: Bylaws and Articles. It came out at the meeting that the Board also wants to revise the Covenants. I learned of this for the first time on Wednesday.

Not at the meeting, but in a followup email, I pointed out to the Board that if the Covenants are amended, even with a 60% vote, “such amendment shall not have the effect of rendering said restrictions, covenants and conditions more difficult to comply with or of imposing more severe restrictions.” I asked what restrictions the Boards wants to relax, since that’s all that’s allowed.

I just got a reply, which is that all the Board wants to do is modify the Covenants so that they can charge a violation fee of $25 or $50 a day if, for example, someone parks an RV in their driveway or has a fence or shed for which they neglected to get Architectural Committee approval.

There are two issues with that: Legally, this sure sounds to me like making it more difficult to comply with the covenants, because the HOA member has to pay money while in the process of complying. (Say, $500 to rework the shed, plus $3000 in fines.) And, as I said before, if this is what the Board wants, just propose a simple amendment. No need to re-write the whole thing.

Oh yeah, and what do you think the chances are of 60% of the membership (not 60% of those voting) agreeing to give the Board the power to impose a violation fee? My guess would be… let me think… I have it: Big fat zero.

Please, anyone reading this: Start going to Board Meetings!

Boulder and Larimer County Beers at Gunbarrel Liquors

This is a replacement for the first version of this post. I had totally missed one of the beer cases!

I just dropped by Gunbarrel Liquors to see what local beers they stocked. Here’s the situation for the Boulder and Larimer breweries in the Colorado Top 10 (those counties in bold):

  1. New Belgium – yes
  2. Oscar Blues – yes
  3. Odell – yes
  4. Left Hand – yes
  5. Avery – yes
  6. Great Divide (Denver)
  7. Ska (Durango)
  8. Upslope – yes
  9. Crazy Mountain (Denver/Edwards)
  10. Boulder Beer – yes

So they have 7 of 7. King Soopers has 6 of 7. (Gunbarrel Liquors also has Great Divide and Ska; I didn’t check for Crazy Mountain.)

They also have canned beer from much smaller local breweries: Finkel & Garf, Wibby, Asher, and New Planet. King Soopers doesn’t have any of these.

The price for Finkel & Garf is the same as the price at the brewery across the street. (Same at Hazel, too.) So you could buy it at Gunbarrel Liquors to support Finkel & Garf’s retail presence, or buy it directly to give them more of the profit.

So, three cheers for Gunbarrel Liquors for their selection of craft beers and, especially, their collection of very local ones.

Craft Beer at King Soopers

As of yesterday, grocery stores (and any store that used to sell 3.2 beer, which is now gone from Colorado) can sell full-strength beer, including our local King Soopers. Beer can be sold from 8am to midnight.

I dropped by to take a look, as I was curious as to what craft beers they would stock. (There are plenty of non-craft beers.) I spotted New Belgium, Oscar Blues, Odell, Avery, Upslope, and Boulder Beer.

In 2016, according to the Brewers Association, the largest craft breweries in Colorado were, from the largest: New Belgium, Oscar Blues, Odell, Left Hand, Avery, Great Divide (Denver), Ska (Durango), Upslope, Crazy Mountain (Denver/Edwards), and Boulder Beer. So 6 of the 7 in Boulder and Larimer counties are represented; only Left Hand is missing. It’s pretty easy to see how King Soopers decided what to stock.

I’m going to visit Gunbarrel Liquor in a day or so to see if they’ve done anything in response, such as increasing their stock of smaller microbrews, like Finkel & GarfGunbarrel Brewing, or Wibby, all of which sell beer in cans. If they do, that would be a reason to buy your beer there. (Hazel in Boulder sells Finkel & Garf and Wibby.) UPDATE: Gunbarrel Liquor has a very complete selection.

Note that King Soopers in Gunbarrel doesn’t sell wine or hard liquor. Just beer.

 

How much to tip in a restaurant?

With three of the newer restaurants in Gunbarrel providing only limited service (you take a number to your table), I’ve re-thought how much I want to tip. The restaurants I’m thinking of are Sancho’s, Lookout Cafe & Cocktails, and Raglin Market. Generally, I’ve been over-tipping, not because I’m getting great service, but because I haven’t been thinking things through.

It seems that restaurants can be divided into three main categories with regard to service levels:

  • Full service: You’re shown to your seat, a waiter takes your order, it’s brought to you, and the waiter handles the check at the end. Examples: Proto’s, Morning Table, Aperitivo.
  • Limited service: You order and pay at a counter, take a number to your table, and a server brings the order to you. You may have to bus your own table. Examples: Lookout, Raglin, Sancho’s.
  • No service: The staff stays behind the counter. Examples: Snarf’s and Burger King.

I don’t think whether the server earns a tipped minimum wage, which in Colorado is about $3 less than the regular minimum wage, should be a factor,  because:

  • If with tips the server’s hourly pay falls below the regular minimum wage, the employer has to make up the difference.
  • The minimum wage is much less than a living wage, and many people who serve you (trash collector, gas station attendant, Home Depot cashier) make much less than a living wage.
  • You rarely know what anyone is making. Some businesses might pay more than the minimum wage.

So, how much to tip should depend on the level and quality of service, not on your guess as to the server’s income. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • 20% of the pre-tax bill for full service, with more or less if the service is exceptionally good or bad.
  • 10%, more or less, for limited service.
  • zero, and very rarely more, for no service.

At a bar (alcohol or coffee) where I’m sitting at the bar or at a nearby table, I’ll tip 10% if I’m only drinking, and 20% if I’m ordering a meal and can order while sitting down.

Under my new scheme, food trucks get a zero tip, although I would tip if the person in the truck is particularly charismatic. Carry-out also gets a zero tip.